The Winter Fan Dance – 2016
Avalanche events runs a series of events based very closely on UK Special Forces Selection. One of their events is the notorious “Fan Dance” which is a 15 mile traverse across a little corner of the Brecon Beacons in Wales taking in southern Britain’s highest hill – Pen y Fan, not once but twice! Meaning that the route takes in over 900m of ascent and over some very difficult terrain. There is a summer and winter Fan Dance but as it is growing in popularity they have put 3 races on this winter an additional night time event race (yet to come). I had done the inaugural Fan Dance race in 2013 which was infamous due to the amount it had snowed and I had also completed the route several times in the army so knew what I was letting myself in for all said and done I was really looking forward to a good run out on the hills and my body certainly needed work out after too much booze and food over Christmas!
I arrived early in order to register and get my kit ready for the start, going clean fatigue meant that I did not have a minimum weight to carry but I still had to carry a minimum kit list to ensure safety on the hills. So with food, water, warm kit and a few other extras I had a decent bit of weight to run with but was glad once the saw the incoming weather system and snow on the high ground. In terms of kit I went with the Inov8 X-talons as I wanted enough grip in the mud and snowy patches, especially when descending quickly downhill. Under my legs I had a pair of Zeropoint compression socks to give my lower leg muscles some additional support and assistance on the long up hills. upper body I wore a pair of light weight Inov8 gloves and a Zeropoint long sleeve compression top under my goretex jacket. A buff helped in many ways to keep both and head, ears and neck out of the wind at various pints during the race as well.
Time for the race and it was straight into a very steep ascent and quickly we were starting to spread out as the hill took it’s toll. Towards the top of Pen y Fan after what seemed like an eternity and we were treated to some stunning views of the valley below us and the route ahead. By this point the snow was all over, which was thresh from the night before. Coming off Pen Y Fan I started coming across the load carrying racers who had started an hour before us. Slipped a few time coming down but was ok fortunately. Then cam a long drawn out descent to the turn around point at which point I ate as much food a drank as much as I could before turning around and re-treading the route. The clag was starting to come in again so had a nice blizzard to keep me going!
The climb back up to Pen y Fan from this side was even worse because of “Jacob’s ladder” a horrible ascent which gets steadily steeper the higher you go to a point where you need 3 points of contact on the ground as you climb. My lungs were fit to burst by the time I got to the top so with some relief a started the descent back to the start/finish point. Not sure if it was the prospect of a cup of tea and pork roll at the finish but I managed to throw myself down the hill quick enough to overtake a few runners ahead of me. Finally into the finish after 2hrs and 43 minutes for 7th place which I was very pleased with considering my ever growing gut!
Great challenge and thoroughly recommend it as something different to do whether you normally do OCR, road running or what ever, the weather conditions and terrain make it much tougher than the 15 miles or so it is on paper. I was really pleased with how my kit stood up to the challenges’ especially after seeing people slip over a few times. After a long hot bath I stuck on my 2XU compression shorts for the evening and a day later my legs feel surprisingly good which is proof enough for me they work in same way!
Next Fan Dance is in the summer…..